Two men arrested for allegedly cutting phone lines

Published 8:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

Bell County Sheriff’s Office on Monday arrested two men who have been charged with receiving stolen property under $10,000 for allegedly cutting a phone line.

Robert Craig Smith, 46, of Middlesboro and Donnie Ray Rutherford, 49, of Pineville were arrested after sheriff’s officials received a call from AT&T saying a GPS system alerted them to a freshly cut phone line on Old Pineville Pike. Due to the tracking technology, the sheriff’s office said the staff was able to view the suspects on a live map as they were moving with the wire inside their vehicle.

Sgt. Adam Southern of the sheriff’s K9 unit responded after he began receiving updates from AT&T via Bell County Dispatch.

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The last update determined that the suspects had traveled on Highway 119 then on to Bird Branch Road, where the GPS stopped moving at 192 Bird Branch, the sheriff’s office said. Southern arrived moments later and reported that he observed Smith and Rutherford, standing beside a 1999 gold Jeep Wrangler with the rear hatch open. A large bundle of freshly cut phone line was on the ground behind the vehicle, Southern reported.

Southern reported that the suspects claimed they found the wire on the ground while cutting tree bark and decided to take it for scrap. Both men were placed under arrest and transported to the Bell County Detention Center for booking.